Writers strike forces liberal late night shows off air for three months, critics say ‘people just don’t care’

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For several years, The Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City was a hot spot for liberal fans to absorb the latest Trump headlines through what’s been dubbed as “clapter,” a term that meshes “clapping” and “laughter” to describe the Democrat pep rally-like atmosphere that has taken over late-night audiences.

The theater is the home of CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which became must-watch television for anti-Trump audiences, overtaking NBC’s “Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” as the most-watched late-night program.

Today, however, the Ed Sullivan Theater is collecting dust. That’s because the writers strike that began in early May has now reached the three-month mark with no end in sight.

The writers strike (now in tandem with the actors strike) has halted production of movies and TV shows across the entertainment industry. Among the first immediately impacted were the late-night shows including “The Late Show” and “The Tonight Show” as well as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “The Daily Show,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “Saturday Night Live,” all of them forced to air re-runs.


Writers on strike in Los Angeles carry signs that highlight what they take issue with, with one sign saying "A.I. THIS SIGN WROTE"

The writers strike has kept late-night shows off the air since early May. (David McNew)

Political satirist Tim Young says their months-long absence makes it “easy to forget” about them.

“Their tired attempts at making funny news-based monologues that were always about Trump had become exhausting and unquotable, so they’d rarely even be covered by entertainment news anymore,” Young told Fox News Digital. “Late night shows are so forgettable that I think people have just moved on… they just aren’t missed.”


Viewership across the late-night landscape had been dropping long before the writers strike. In 2018, the midpoint of Trump’s presidency, Colbert averaged 3 million viewers. In 2023, the “Late Show” audience fell to 2.1 million, losing nearly a third of viewers the process. Fallon lost almost half of his audience during the same timeframe, going from an average of 2.3 million viewers in 2018 to 1.3 million in 2023.

Kimmel, who notably expressed he didn’t mind in 2017 if viewers were turned off by his liberal politics, shed roughly half a million viewers since 2018, averaging just 1.5 million this year.

Kimmel Fallon Colbert split

Viewership for Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert have been declining long before the writers strike.  (Getty Images)

Other late-night offerings are doing even worse. Seth Meyer’s “Late Night” audience has cratered to a 778,000 average following his 1.3 million average five years ago. “The Daily Show,” which has rotated guest hosts after Trevor Noah stepped down last year, averaged just 366,000 viewers leading into the strike, losing more than half of viewers since 2018.


Meanwhile, Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” quickly surged since its debut in April 2021 to become one of the most-watched late-night shows, frequently beating Colbert and regularly crushing Kimmel and Fallon.

The show, hosted by “The King of Late Night” author Greg Gutfeld, is the only late-night offering still airing on television during the writers strike and continues to thrive in its new 10 p.m. ET timeslot, averaging 2 million viewers in a cable news slot.

Gutfeld! show with Greg Gutfeld

Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld has earned the title as the “king of late night” and hosts the only late-night show still airing weeknights amid the Hollywood writers strike.  (FOX)

As “Gutfeld!” continues poking fun at the latest headlines, its liberal competitors have been sidelined for so long they’ve missed out on several political news cycles including former President Trump’s second and third rounds of indictments, the growing controversies surrounding the Biden family, and the evolving 2024 presidential race.

“People just don’t care about late night the way they used to,” comedian and Fox Nation host Jimmy Failla told Fox News Digital. “There was a time when a Hollywood strike would’ve been front page news every day until it was solved. These days we have such an overwhelming amount of content options that it’s diluted their viewer pool, which was reflected in the ratings even before the strike.”


Failla, a frequent guest and guest-host of “Gutfeld!,” that the “whole business model” of the liberal late-night shows had been “predicated on celebrity access,” but in the era of social media, A-listers no longer need a funnyman behind a desk to reach millions of Americans and they can do so from the comfort of their own homes.

“So nobody cares that they can’t see their favorite celebrity sitting on Stephen Colbert’s couch while he complains about President Trump,” he added.

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